Turkish President Erdoğan calls on election watchdog to cancel candidacy of HDP’s Demirtaş

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and jailed HDP Co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş.

Slamming calls for the release of Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed presidential candidate of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to cancel Demirtaş’s presidential candidacy less than two weeks before elections on June 24.

Speaking at a political rally in Trabzon province on Wednesday, Islamist President Erdoğan said: “That is what they said: ‘Release the presidential candidate.’ What does it mean, releasing a presidential candidate. There should be conditions for being a presidential candidate. To me, this [the approval of Demirtaş’s candidacy by the YSK] was a wrong move and needs to be corrected. [They said] he had not been convicted, he had just been arrested. [But] the reason for his arrest is very important. Do not they need an Ottoman slap? But in the ballot box…”

Many, including his rivals Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Meral Akşener, the candidate of the İYİ Party, and Temel Karamollaoğlu, the candidate of the Felicity Party (SP), have been calling for Demirtaş’s release during the presidential campaign so the election can take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all presidential candidates.

HDP candidate Demirtaş has been in pretrial detention since November 2016.

Accusing Demirtaş of responsibility for the deaths of 53 people during street protests in 2014, Erdoğan also reiterated his claims against Demirtaş at his election rally in Trabzon on Wednesday.

Demirtaş on Monday challenged Erdoğan over remarks he made on the “Kobani protests,” during which 53 people died, and capital punishment, saying he has never been sued over the deaths in the Kobani protests.

Correcting the number of people killed to 43 including 33 HDP supporters, six Free Cause Party (HÜDA PAR) supporters, two Syrian refugees and two security force members, Demirtaş said: “During the five months following the Kobani events, our meetings with Erdoğan and [his ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP over the settlement process [to resolve the Kurdish problem] continued. In other words, Erdoğan continued to meet for five months with us, who he now labels ‘terrorists’.”

Demirtaş also said 12 motions submitted by the HDP for investigation of provocateurs and instigators of the Kobani incidents were rejected by AKP votes in parliament.

The HDP’s candidate ended his flood of tweets with a call to Erdoğan: “O Erdoğan! This is the biggest opportunity in political history: I will withdraw my presidential candidacy if you can put the call you claim I made for the killing of 53 people below this tweet by June 24.”

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